Partners Against Crime discusses crime prevention in downtown police district

Jul. 20, 2013 @ 06:19 PM

Partners Against Crime District 1, which brings together police officers, Durham residents and local government officials to combat downtown crime, celebrated its 20th anniversary Saturday at the Durham Rescue Mission off East Main Street.

The meeting was held at the mission’s new Center for Hope, which was dedicated in February and serves as a haven for those struggling with homelessness and addiction. The center has 88 beds for men, and Durham Rescue Mission and all of its chapters are currently home to 350 residents.

Gwyn Silver, a former PAC co-facilitator and current community coordinator for District 1, shared pieces of the organization’s history, starting when the idea for a community-based drug and crime strategy began to take shape in 1993. Residents joined in with the Durham Police Department and Durham County Sheriff’s Office to combat local crime, and their first meeting was held in the fall of 1993, in the basement of the Salvation Army building off Alston Avenue.

Silver mentioned the turn-around of the Albright community as one of the group’s successes, when Partners Against Crime helped shut down a night club that used to block the pathway of ambulances and was prone to shoot-outs. The building is now a daycare center.

Drug houses also were shut down, and 280 tons of trash were removed from the creek that runs through Albright.

Lt. Felisa Francis, assistant District 1 commander with the Durham Police Department, said she and other officers have started to canvas neighborhoods to talk with residents about safety issues and to disseminate safety information. Their next stop is Thursday, when they will visit Bentwood Apartments at 322 Junction Road and Kilarney Drive.

“One thing they would like to see is more personal relationships with law enforcement,” Francis said about community feedback to the DPD.

At the meeting, volunteers passed out information about this year’s Durham homicides. An 18-year-old was shot in January while standing outside the Town ‘N Country convenience store. A 19-year-old was shot in the head in April during a drug deal. The list of 14 homicides had repeat scenarios - Victims were shot while standing in their yard or walking down the street. Others were killed during a gun fight or during more drug deals.

Francis said last month was an active one. There were more than a dozen cases of robberies and aggravated assaults, she said, as well as a number of burglaries that were spread out across the area and not contained to one hotspot.

But “we’re still working hard, we’re still doing good things to ensure the safety in this district,” she said.

Francis added that they’ve made multiple arrests in cases where cell phones were stolen, a crime that’s trending in Durham.

Vivian McCoy, a co-facilitator for Partners Against Crime District 1, said with more apartments being built and more annexation, she’d like to see two officers patrolling in one police car.

“It’s getting to the point where we need more officers,” McCoy said. “I’ve never been a cop, but for the safety of our police officers, we need two officers to a car.”

After the presentations, audience members dispersed for a tour of the new Center for Hope. Silver joined in, taking a look at the new GED classrooms. Durham Rescue Mission residents can take classes and receive their GEDs, which will eventually lead to more employment opportunities.

Silver said in the coming months, Partners Against Crime District 1 is hoping to focus on jobs.

“Jobs is key to us because jobs is one of those factors that decreases crime,” Silver said. “…We’ve done a lot, but there’s still a lot to do.”